Political commentators have said the opposition Malawi Congress Party’s (MCP) performance against the ruling Democratic Progressive Party(DPP) in Tuesday’s by-elections is a warning that MCP needs to question its recruitment strategies.
MCP Spokesperson, Jesse Kabwila has, however, accused the DPP instead of capitalising on the worsening hunger and poverty to buy votes.
The by-elections results show a big margin between the votes cast for DPP candidate for Zomba Chisi Constituency, Mark Botomani who had 3,019 votes and MCP candidate, Brazio Namakhuwa’s, 208 votes. While in Mtope Ward in Mchinji, MCP’s Auleriano Kalemba scooped 2,444 votes against Benedicto Tsele of DPP who got 2,071. In Ngala Ward in Lilongwe District, Master Chazama of MCP carted home 1,381 votes against DPP’s Regina Sululu’s 717 votes.
The analysts, Mustapha Hussein and Ernest Thindwa, said MCP has a lot to do to woe voters outside its central region stronghold while at the same time safeguarding it.
“Its activities are usually concentrated on central region and part of the Northern Region but there isn’t much that we hear about its campaign or about its intensive work in Southern Region. The results even show that it has to work even harder to minimize the gap between itself and the ruling DPP.
“In the Central Region, it seems DPP is working hard to penetrate since it is able to mobilise sizeable number of supporters or it is able to amass sizeable votes in the centre where Malawi Congress Party
is regarded as a strong party. The DPP has minimized the gap and it is catching up in terms of popularity which is translated into the votes,” Hussein said.
He said if the MCP is to be strong, it needs to minimise the margin in the Southern Region and even work harder in the Central Region to avoid other parties including the DPP from taking over.
“There could be several factors affecting the MCP. It could be failure to popularize its objectives or minimal activities in the Southern Region. It could be because of squabbles in terms of leadership and also the issue of lack of resources,” he said.
According to Hussein, some people in the Southern Region may continue to associate MCP with the dictatorial tendencies of the past and it is up to the new party leadership to erase that past image from people’s mind.
Thindwa, who said he would not be tempted to make a conclusion on the parties’ popularity based on one constituency and two wards, said: “Unlike voting for a presidential candidate, at times people may not vote for a parliamentary candidate
based on the party colours. There are other considerations other than the party. So the choice of an MP may not necessarily translate to the popularity of the party.”
But Kabwila thinks otherwise: “I do agree that the margin for Mchinji and Ngala were tight, but we need also to know that DPP is the party that is using politicization of maize. They [DPP] were distributing maize during the election and also giving people money. We have even engaged them on this and they will tell you even in broad day light that for them campaigning is campaigning and they can even [use] anything as long as they win.”
Kabwila said her party lodged a complaint with the Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) on alleged use of relief maize to woo votes for the DPP.
“But Mec responded to us saying the food was being distributed by World Food Programme. We find this as not true, in fact why government suspended distribution of maize that was approved by the Parliament, only to resume when we had elect ion s , ” alleged Kabwila before urging the government to continue distributing maize even after the by-elections.
She, however, commended Mec for running a transparent and accountable election for the first time as they were not only recording the figures but writing letters as well that provided documents that helped to provide records for the elections. Additional reporting by Vyalema Kaluluma Phiri.
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